(Sore Thumb; 2012)
By Kaylen Hann | 18 January 2013
Hiding can sometimes just be another way of anticipating—waiting/holding back. It can be the nascent headspin and wooze at the tail-end of having dredged the internal murk for some clarity, and seeing that nebulous cloud acquire something like a shape—a shape which can be parsed with words; and the words which articulate that shape begin to form, well up with pressing, exponential volume.
You can feel what Tearjerker has inside: it stirs, causes the small hairs on the arms to raise, at a song’s apex, with the shiver of beginning to know what it is you want to say—the internalized, coveted sensation of having something to say. Of having a chest full of it. Words with such import and body that you can feel yourself verbalizing to the extent your mouth understands what their weight and shape, their mouth-feel as you speak; and you will say those words. Just: not yet. It is hiding in an anticipatory way that infuses this EP from Toronto’s No Big Hair lo-fi trio.
Much about these four tracks are suspended in that period of “not now but almost,” with words that rustle your skin from the other side. That said: each song has probably less than fifty words. Try and figure out what half of them are.
To excise examples from the lyrics feels like an odd thing to do, as the lyrics barely excise themselves from the matter of the song. With vocalist Micah Bonte always operating out of earshot, those small word clusters are lost to fogs of unsettled atmospheric elements that equally avoid being pinned down. There’s a lot you can’t see with this album, when you listen. You can’t see Bonte’s mouth forming the words; there’s a sonic refraction that distorts the sounds and his mouth and obfuscates the faces and personalities behind the music.
It is the preemptive hiding, the hiding that walks in step with an excited actualization as elements become what they are, and hide not out of fear so much as because what they are, they haven’t revealed themselves to be—even the people feeling or playing. It is the sound of elements that haven’t reached amalgam, beginning to stir and achieve blends.
And Tearjerker are capable of an atmosphere that feels like more than atmosphere. It is a rich climate of noise that isn’t just distorting: buzzing with life and with feeling, it’s alive, it feels, and it feels you out in the dark, grapples for something in your chest with wanting fingers. It’s an atmosphere that searches for things in yourself when you listen. The thrum and scorching-through of guitar, the rhythm that is never just percussion, the tick of a cymbal far more distant than the rhythm of fingernails on metal strings. The amp that hangs long after everything’s left.
This is a band that’s constantly reworking tracks, like last year’s Word EP featuring new versions of “So Dead” and the title track, both already fully articulated songs. The former track achieving the surprising heartbreak of their “Polar Bears” remix with its equally heartbreaking accompaniment of some cartoon I vaguely remember and found almost too jarringly sad to watch in sync with the music:
There’s also a lot of remixes, which shift the songs so drastically they may as well be new songs altogether. They spend a lot of time on the remixing and re-interpreting the atmosphere of their songs, and while the mood shifts it’s never as placeable emotionally as just being a happy song, sung sadly or vise versa.
“So Dead,” from Word, employs something slower, even more complicated to digest as a specific emotion with those “Two Weeks”-like palpitations and drawn-out taffy lyrics.
Increasingly, they make the atmosphere of their songs more nebulous, exploring the gray area. And it pays off for them to be so at home in that air of re-conception; there’s something happening in their ability to suss out the gray song-material and to feel out what to say and how to hang those in the air. And what air.
What it means to hide is to be waiting, watching, and feeling for changes. On the other end of Hiding’s “I didn’t quite say / What I wanted to say yet” is me; Tearjerker is waiting, and I am waiting for them, all ears.